AZUSA, Calif. -- Exactly one month to the day of her first career no-hitter, junior pitcher Rita Kim got herself another one in the second game of Azusa Pacific’s 12-2, 8-0 Golden State Athletic Conference doubleheader sweep over Hope International Tuesday evening.
Both no-hitters ended early due to the mercy rule, although it took the NAIA’s No. 8-ranked Cougars an extra inning to go ahead by eight runs. As a result, Kim added a six-inning no-hitter to go with the five-inning no-no she tossed against Menlo last month. She struck out five in the win as she improved to 11-3 on the season.
“I just try to stay within myself and not do anything extra,” Kim said. “I’ve got eight other players behind me (on defense), so I know I don’t have to do everything myself.”
Kim issued leadoff walks in the first, fourth, and fifth innings, and a fielding error allowed the Royals’ sixth-inning leadoff player to reach base, but not a single one reached second base safely.
“I feel like I did my job today, because I didn’t get rattled,” Kim said. “I was able to keep my composure even when I walked the leadoff batter a few times. That’s never a good situation, but I knew all I had to do was get a ground ball for my teammates to make a play for me. Being able to trust your defense is a huge help.”
The Cougar offense was slow to start after scoring 12 runs in four innings in the opener, but junior designated player Heather Koch and senior first baseman Erika Marmolejo hit consecutive run-scoring singles in the third inning to break the scoreless tie. Azusa Pacific added one more in the fourth, again on a two-out single off the bat of senior centerfielder Angie Sprague, and another pair of fifth-inning runs also came with two outs to push the lead to 5-0.
Sprague hit a run-scoring triple in the sixth to extend the margin to 6-0, and she scored on a wild pitch to make it 7-0. After senior third baseman Olivia Wilcox nearly ended the game with a double off the left-field fence, pinch-runner Sona Babayan scored the final run for the 8-0 mercy-rule win on Marmolejo’s single up the middle.
“Since I’ve been here, we’ve struggled and lost to teams we shouldn’t lose to,” Cougar head coach Carrie Webber said. “We have an older team now, and everyone is experienced, and it shows their maturity and growth that I know I don’t have to worry about them going out and handling these games like they are supposed to.”
In the opener, Wilcox got the offense rolling with a two-run double in the first inning, and the Cougars went on to score at least twice in each of their four turns at-bat. A sacrifice fly later in the first gave Azusa Pacific a 3-0 lead and capped a three-run opening frame. Koch and Marmolejo each doubled in the second inning, helping set off a four-run inning that included Brandi Andrews’ team-leading eighth home run of the season, a two-run shot that pushed the Cougars’ lead to 7-2.
Junior leftfielder Rachel Miller capped all the scoring with a two-run home run to left with one out in the fourth inning. That pushed the margin to 12-2, and junior pitcher Mariah Worley overcame a leadoff double in the top of the fifth to strand a pair of baserunners and finish off the win. Worley is now 12-0 on the year.
Sprague collected two hits in each game of the doubleheader, leading the Cougars to 20 runs in two game against Hope International after doing exactly the same thing just three days earlier against the Royals in Fullerton.
“We’re going to try to keep the momentum and consistency going through the next six games after our break,” said Webber, whose team has the remainder of their spring break week off before resuming practice next week. “Maintaining our level of consistency and passion in those later games like we are doing right now is what we’re going to try to prepare to do.”
With the sweep, Azusa Pacific improves to 34-6 overall and 8-2 in GSAC play, while Hope International has lost eight in a row, all against teams ranked among the NAIA’s top eight, to fall to 22-24 overall, 2-10 GSAC. The Cougars are off from game action for nearly two weeks, returning home to play Vanguard on Saturday, April 14.